Greetings from Mohegan Sun Arena. The Sun and Mercury tip off in a little under two hours here, but there are some notes and quotes to go over before tonight's game, which is being broadcast on CSN:
* Defense has been the focus in practice since the Sun fell apart late against the Chicago Sky on Tuesday. As expected, the team spent a good portion of practice in recent days studying tape, and as Sun coach Mike Thibault put it, "getting back to good habits." Connecticut spent the previous week harping on rebounding, which improved, but apparently, Thibault said, the defense took a step back in the process.
He made it clear, however, that he doesn't think mental fatigue was a factor against Chicago despite coming off a weekend road trip.
"Nobody’s playing huge minutes," Thibault said following practice Thursday. No one on the Sun is playing more than 30 minutes a game (Tina Charles leads the team at 29.9), compared to a team like Phoenix that has two players (Diana Taurasi and Tangela Smith) topping 30 a night, with a third not far behind (Penny Taylor at 29.8).
"I think it’s a lack of focus on fundamental stuff," Thibault continued. "Staying in the stance, moving your feet. A lot of defense is just focus and energy. There’s technique involve, but you can’t get technique down if you don’t have basic stuff."
Phoenix continues to lead the league in scoring (93.4 points per game) and should provide an immediate test of where the Sun stand. Taurasi (23.1 ppg) leads all individuals in points per game.
"If we can play really well (today) and slow them down some, that means we have really good defense, given they’re the best offensive team," Asjha Jones said.
* The Sun also need to get their footing back late in games. For a team that's relied on late-game runs to put teams away this season, Connecticut was outscored, 27-12, in the fourth quarter Sunday at Phoenix and 25-17 against Chicago on Tuesday.
That obviously speaks to the team's defensive woes, but Tuesday also featured problems simply getting the ball off before the shot clock. Thibault described it after the game as too much standing around.
"Usually we won’t play good throughout a game but by a certain point or by the fourth, we’ll pick it up," Jones said. "And we weren’t able to do that. Our offense tanked, we couldn’t make the shots we were making in the first half, and then they were getting lay-ups."
* A quirky thing to watch for tonight: In the past five games, Anete Jekabsone-Zogota has been announced at a different height each time. It's ranged from 5-foot-7 to 5-foot-11 to 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-10. For the record, WNBA.com has her listed at 5-foot-9 and that's seems about right. Also, her official height isn't listed in the game notes, which may be the cause for the confusion.
Or she's simply shrinking. Or growing.
* Danielle McCray, the No. 7 overall pick in this year's draft, will be in the house tonight. McCray, who's rehabbing a torn ACL in Lawrence, Kansas where she attended school, is expected to pop in now and then with the Sun. She also was at practice Thursday.